Bangkok’s Little India
Throughout its history, Thailand has been known for its cosmopolitanism. For instance, during the Ayutthaya Era, the area surrounding the city was home to numerous villages with multinational residents living in harmony. The present Thailand is no exception to this key characteristic of Thai society. The Little India of Bangkok, also known as Phahurat, is a neighbourhood in the Old Quarter of the Thai capital. Its residents are mainly Thais of South Asian descent and heritage, including, for example, the Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims.
The Phahurat community is situated along Phahurat Road. Being one of the oldest roads in Bangkok, it was constructed during the reign of King Rama V the Great in remembrance of his daughter, Princess Bahurada Manimaya who had passed away at a young age. Today, Phahurat is noted for its restaurants serving South Asian cuisine and providing a unique shopping experience, which offers a variety of goods ranging from cloth and sewing accessories to an Indian traditional garment or sari. In recent years, the neighbourhood has witnessed significant urbanisation and modernisation with shopping malls and modern facilities being built along the culturally rich road. The fact that Phahurat lies just next to Chinatown (Yaowarat Road), one of the busiest commercial districts of the country, makes Phahurat a thriving and dynamic neighbourhood.
However, a large portion of Phahurat’s population still maintains its distinct way of life. The Sikh temple, Gurudwara Siri Guru Singh Sabha, is a case in point; not only is the temple a cornerstone of Thai Sikh community, but its continued existence also serves as a symbol of how people from various parts of the world have been able to live and prosper in the Kingdom without having to forsake their identities. The temple was founded in 1932 by a community of Sikh immigrants, and since then it has operated continuously as a place for both religious ceremonies and public gatherings. Nowadays, this place is still frequented by the followers of the faith and is an attraction for both travellers, and those who want to learn more about the Sikh way of life and teachings.
The Phahurat neighbourhood, as well as any other multinational neighbourhoods in Bangkok, is tangible evidence that, despite being seen as an overwhelmingly Buddhist society, Thailand is a cosmopolitan and multicultural country, where people from diverse backgrounds and all walks of life are welcomed to stay and live harmoniously together.